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Google Emerges As The Most Valuable Brand Pushing Apple Down

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For the past 5 years, Apple was reigning as the undisputed most valuable brand among the various tech companies. Apple successfully rolled out iPhones and iPads with exorbitant cameras and thinner profiles. However, this year, Apple isn’t able to retain its spot as Google successfully became the most valuable brand according to the latest reports.

Apple’s brand value lost 27% in the past one year. Global 500 2017 report from Brand Finance reveals that Apple’s value has reduced to $107 billion. The brand value of Google has gone up to reach $109 million as it became the most profitable brand in the world. Google was highly valued in 2011 and for the first time in five years, Google has improved itself to grab on to the first spot. Following Google and Apple, Amazon, AT&T, and Microsoft became the top valuable brands.

Apple’s products were consumed by the people like no other in the past. The innovative products completely revolutionized the smartphone and tablet industry. However, that is not the case anymore. The loyal users of Apple are finding it difficult to pay a higher price for Apple products when they can get similar products for a much lower price elsewhere. Apple had hoped that the Apple watch would become the most loved product of this year. The consumers were not as much interested as Apple in the brand new Apple watch.

When Apple launched iPhone, it was a pioneer product in the smartphone industry. Now, the competition for Apple has grown stronger as Google started hardware production as well. Apple has not made any new announcement about any new innovative product of the year and this has reduced the interest in Apple products.

Recent reports from Apple, however, shows that iPhone has not lost its market. The holiday season brought good news for Apple as the company earned $17.9 billion in the first fiscal quarter by selling iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. The net income was down from $18.4 billion of last year, but the revenue jumped to $78.4 billion. The results of Apple are much better than the expectations of the analysts. Apple’s share reached the value of $3.36 per share.

Alphabet, the parent company of Google reported an amazing income of $5.33 billion as the shares reached $7.56 per share in the last quarter. The analysts estimated a better value, but Alphabet’s revenue increased by 22% reaching $26 billion. The major contributors to the growth were video ads, mobile search and cloud computing technologies. Google is the undisputed leader when it comes to internet search and a huge portion of its income is from advertising revenue.

In the brand report, the technology companies topped the list grabbing the top 5 positions. The banking industry came next to the tech industry with some banks being recognized as the most lucrative brands. The telecom sector followed the suit beating the retail and car brands. Lego became the most powerful brand in the world beating Disney, as it is popularized by the Lego Movie.

US Jobless Claims Reach A Lower Level Indicating Positive Growth

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The US unemployment claims is always closely watched by the industry as it is an indication of the economy of the country. Fewer claims mean that the number of jobless people is lesser, which is a great factor to predict the economic conditions of the country. In the last week, the US unemployment claims has reduced to 234,000. This number is equivalent to what it was in the 1970s. This number is in fact the lowest in the past 40 years.

The new unemployment claims number is much better than the 1970s because the labor force has increased in the past four decades. When you consider the rate of jobless claims, it is almost 50% less than what it was in 1970s. This can be a change in the economic conditions of the country. The improvement in the economy has helped the organizations to cut down on layoffs. With the economy improving positively, the enterprises understand that the labor cost will be higher in the future and they want to hold on to the workforce they currently have. As a result, the number of Americans who apply for the unemployment checks have reached a historically lower level.

In the past 98 weeks, the unemployment claims stayed below 300,000. The unemployment rate is calculated to be 4.7% and economists call this as full employment. The improvement is not just related to the workforce because the wages are increasing as well. While many experts want the wages to increase quickly, they are happy that the wages are going in an upward trend. The labor market trend is more accurately represented by the average monthly claims. The average claims reduced by 10,250, reaching the lowest level since the November of 1973. The average for one week is not useful in gauging the economic conditions, but the monthly average will help in that aspect.

Economic experts suggest that the economic condition is as good as it is going to be. Everyone will be thrilled when the unemployment rate reduces further by another percentage. As the real wages climb up, the employers are cautious with the labor force they possess. The increasing cost of labor could make it difficult for employers to look for cheaper labor. The economists are hoping for a much faster growth, but it is far fetched at the current pace. The only way to accelerate growth is to reform the supply side. This doesn’t mean lower taxes but reformations must be encouraged in other areas.

Some experts suggest that license should be addressed so that the labor market might be freed up a bit. Reducing rent seeking will also prove to be good. This will be useful only if the tax system is modified to give more importance to land and consumption instead of focusing on capital and corporations. When the macro economy is optimized, more focus could be given to the micro economy. There is so much work to do to optimize economic growth and the nation is pinning its hopes on the new administration.

Consumers Shunning Payday Loans

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For years it has been the general consensus that the unbanked, the underbanked and the underserved turned to the likes of payday loans, check-cashing services, auto title loans and so on to conduct their daily financial affairs. Thay may have been correct a few years ago, but, as of late, it is no longer so.

According to a new study by the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) and Core Innovation Capital (Core), underserved consumers in the United States spent approximately $141 billion in fees and interest last year.

Everything from borrowing to spending, from saving to planning, the underserved are spending billions of dollars each year to obtain these services, and this represents fewer than 10 percent of the entire financial sector – financial services activity generated more than $1 trillion.

The sixth annual study, however, noted that the underserved are shifting away from payday lenders, both in-store and online. Ostensibly, they’re becoming wiser about the high costs of payday loans.

Researchers discovered that personal marketplace loans soared 210 percent in 2015. At the same time, the use of short-term, high-interest personal loans for bad credit declined by 23 percent, which is the sharpest drop in years. The study authors allude to the new regulations and market forces that are helping underserved consumers to take advantage of installment loans and subprime credit cards.

Despite the transition from payday loans to long-term credit, underserved Americans are still spending an exorbitant amount on fees and interest. For long-term credit, the underserved are forking over $55.2 billion. For short-term credit products, the underserved are doling out $26.2 billion. This is a lot of money just to conduct spending in the marketplace.
Ostensibly, according to the researchers, the underserved are financially struggling in the marketplace.

“These numbers affirm our view that everyday Americans are struggling financially, with a majority of American adults relying on high-cost products,” said Colleen Poynton, Vice President at Core, in a statement. “The fact that spending on fees continues to grow at a high rate shows a clear need for tech-enabled entrants to deliver low-cost solutions at scale.”

Using data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the study revealed that there are 67 million adults in the U.S. that do not have bank accounts and/or use alternative financial services.

Previous reports have come to the same conclusion: there are millions of adult consumers in the U.S. that do not have bank accounts or use these accounts rarely. Due to being unbanked or underbanked, many are turning to payday loan stores, check cashing services and other alternative financial services just to get by. Unfortunately, being underserved is costing millions of Americans a pretty penny.

With that being said, such reports have also concluded that the number of unbanked households sits at a record low. It seems financial institutions are tapping into this market, while consumers are realizing that having a bank account is necessary, even with the soaring fees associated with such accounts.

Payday loans have been blamed for a large number of Americans being trapped in debt. Critics say that the high interest rates, the exorbitant fees and hidden charges and the lack of installment plans are causing so many borrowers to be stuck in a vicious debt cycle. Proponents disagree, and allude the fact that many of these consumers need to access these alternative since they are underserved.

Oil Increases In Value As US Supply Reduces

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In New York, oil prices gained momentum after a report from the government stating that biggest US storage hub experienced a decline in its crude stockpiles. The level is at lowest since October. The oil futures gained 0.6% as a result. At Cushing, Oklahoma, the supplies fell down by 1.27 million barrels just in the last week. The stockpiles in the entire nation increased by 2.35 million barrels. However, the American Petroleum institute reported that the stockpiles increased by 5.04 million barrels.

Previously, there were hopes that the OPEC’s deal to cut down oil production all over the world would help the US Shale oil supply. However, the International Energy Agency claimed that it won’t be the case in reality. As a result of OPEC output deal, oil climbed up to reach more than $50 per barrel. Several oil producing countries including Russia agreed to cut down by the oil production by 1.8 million barrels per day. This step is taken to reduce the oversupply in various global inventories. Iraq and Saudi Arabia are keen on implementing the deal by cutting down productions. So, IEA expected the US Shale output to increase as a result.

In the New York Mercantile Exchange, oil was reaching $51.37 per barrel which increased by 29 cents for February delivery. However, the total traded volume was 17% lesser than the 100 day average. Similarly, March settlement futures increased by 24 cents to reach a price of $54.16 per barrel. In the ICE Futures Europe Exchange, the global oil benchmark reached a $2.04 premium for the March West Texas Intermediate. The increase in crude supply oil levels can be attributed to the drop of imports.

Experts believe that oil will receive a stronger support at $50 and beyond. In this year, the price of the oil is expected to be in the range of $50 to $60. If the current trend continues, oil will be approaching $60 by the end of this year. It will increase further in the next year. At Cushing, the crude stockpiles reduced to 65.7 million barrels. EIA reports that crude inventories across the nation continued to increase for the third week, reaching 485.5 million barrels. The refineries currently operate at 90.7% of their capacity, which is a sharp decline in the past three months. These refineries have decreased their capacity by 2.9%. Even then, the gasoline stock piles increased to 246.4 million barrels. On the other hand, the distillate fuels inventories reduced to 169.1 million barrels.

When the oil-producing countries cut down their output as recommended by OPEC, oil prices will continue to increase all over the world. The increased oil prices will trigger more drilling by the explorers of US Shale oil. They are much more efficient at the moment compared to the last two years. The IEA has however predicted a stagnation of production in 2017. Previously, it was expected that oil prices would reach $55 in the year 2016, but the year was a disappointment. However, the curb in oil production will easily push the oil prices in the upcoming year.

Trump Administration Keeps The British On Their Toes

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The Cambridge Union is one of the world’s oldest debating society and it discussed one of the monumental events of this year, inauguration of Donald Trump as the new President of the United States. Britain is experiencing extreme pressure after the Brexit vote. Even though Trump has promised to support the UK government with possible quick trade deals, the government is uneasy with the new administration nevertheless. On the eve of Thursday, the students at the Cambridge Union debated on the presidency of Donald Trump.

The motion was “This house welcomes the end of American hegemony”. At the end of the debate, the motion wasn’t carried, but the house in general is not favorable for the new American president. The former foreign minister, Malcolm Rifkind is a prominent debater and he commented that people are nervous about the new presidency. He openly admitted that he is one of those people and he has no qualms in admitting it. However, he said that he can rest knowing that Russia, China or any other authoritarian country could not take dominance in the near future.

The British government is always happy and proud of its cordial relationship with the America. However, the new presidency has raised a lot of concerns all over the country. The conservative government ruling the country also shares this anxiety. Trump has publicly offered to help the British government with new trade deals soon after UK leaves the bloc. With so much pressure exerted by the Brexit trade deal, the ruling government is unsure about the reactions of the new president of the United States. Britain is desperately in need of new and profitable trade deals to stabilize the economy after breaking off completely from the EU.

The British economy is heavily reliant on the European single market. President Theresa May hinted on hard Brexit and this means that UK won’t be able to retain the access to the single market. A trade deal with a dominant and powerful country can greatly help the Britain to recover from the economic setback. Trump even went on record to state that he wants the trade deal to be finalized quickly to support one of the strong allies of the United States. The current US president cares less about the EU and this is no secret. He has predicted earlier that the European Union would fall apart. He also called the NATO deal is obsolete. Britain is also worried that Trump wants to make new deals with Russia.

Britain is hoping to go down the path cautiously because the country is always happy about balancing its relationship between American and Europe. At this important moment in the history of Britain, the country doesn’t want to be branded as pro-Trump. This could potentially damage the Brexit negotiations when the European counterparts become unhappy with the Britain’s move. Theresa May has said on record that she wants a clean break from the European Union and hopes for the EU members to prosper.